Reporters Without Borders today urged leaders of the Olympic Movement to start considering respect for human rights and freedom of expression in awarding future Olympic Games so as to avoid the kind of controversy that has enveloped the Beijing Olympics which opens in two months time.
“Discussion of the criteria for assigning future Olympics must begin now if a new Beijing Games situation is to be avoided in years to come,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Candidate cities already have to meet clear technical, material and environmental conditions to be to awarded the Games, so why not add respect for freedom of expression in the host countries?
“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) could, for example, take into account whether independent media outlets exist, as well as the degree of censorship and how far local and foreign journalists are allowed to move around.
“The Olympic Charter encourages respect for human dignity but to achieve that, sport is not enough. It must include the rule of law, universal democratic values and basic individual rights. The IOC must start focusing on this and national Olympic committees must back it or the Games may be awarded for 12 or 16 years from now to another country that does not respect human rights.
“The IOC would greatly enhance its reputation by announcing immediately that it would consider including human rights in future awarding of the Games to host cities. It would thus regain the legitimacy it has lost in recent months,” Reporters Without Borders said.
Official IOC documents state that host cities must respect the Olympic Charter and the movement’s Code of Ethics, which says “the Olympic parties are free to play a role in the public life of the states to which they belong” but “may not engage in any activity or follow any ideology inconsistent with the principles and rules defined in the Olympic Charter.”
The present criteria for awarding the Games include support of the government for holding of the Games on its soil, the overall state of sports infrastructure and facilities, provision of suitable housing for athletes and delegations, the environmental impact of the Games, the safety of athletes and spectators, past experience in organising sports events, the funding available to a candidate city and the facilities will that remain after the end of the Games.
The IOC executive may also, at its “sole discretion,” add any other criterion considered useful in choosing the host city.
About 100 journalists, cyber-dissidents, bloggers and other Internet users are currently imprisoned in China. The Chinese government has not kept any of the promises it made to improve human rights after Beijing was awarded the 2008 Games in 2001. Reporters Without Borders therefore calls on all heads of state and government and members of royal families to boycott the opening ceremony of the Games on 8 August.
For more on the Reporters Without Borders worldwide campaign concerning the 2008 Games, see: www.rsf.org (in English, Chinese, Spanish, French and Arabic).